There is no religion which does not have Prayer.
Normally, we think of prayer in terms of requests made to God,
requests for favours that is. Many of the standard prayers do have
built into them requests for something or the other. In fact,
there are even special prayers for special requests, like
recovering lost articles, for example.
For many years, I used to think that making
requests is what prayers are all about. That is to say, one- we
praise God, and two- we slip in our special request - success in
exams, success in recruitment interview, and what have you. I
remember once watching the telecast of a closely-contested cricket
match between India and Pakistan, being played in Sharjah. There
was a big crowd watching the match since there are a lot of
expatriate Indians and Pakistanis in the Gulf. The camera showed
lots of Pakistanis fervently praying to Allah, presumably for the
victory of their team! I asked myself: "Does Allah have no better
business than getting mixed up with a silly cricket match?"
What exactly is Prayer? How exactly ought we to
pray? And why should we pray? These are things I learnt only after
coming to Swami. First and foremost, Prayer is a conversation with
God. It is just like talking to one's mother, for example. And
just as one is used to asking mom for this and that, one also asks
God without inhibition for various things.
Some object to making requests to God.
Concerning this, Baba says that it is better to ask God directly,
than begging humans for all kinds of favours. Indeed this is true.
But then does one have to remember God only when there is a
request to make? This is the question one must ask oneself. In
almost all traditions, children are taught [if at all they are]
prayers that involve requests of one kind or the other. But is
this what we must do? Is this what prayers are all about?
Prayer ought to be an expression of Love for
God, an expression of gratitude for God and above all, an
expression of our willingness for God. We must remember God not
when we are in distress but when we are happy. That is the first
step in developing unselfish love for God. In the Gita, Krishna
tells Arjuna that He has four types of devotees: Those who want
wealth and prosperity, those who are in distress, those who are
thirsting for God, and those who have attained Wisdom. God loves
all no doubt but He has preferences too. This also has been spelt
out clearly by Krishna and reiterated times without number by our
Beloved Baba. I call particular attention to His Divine Discourse
delivered on 24th May, 2000, during the Summer Course [see, Summer
Showers in Brindavan, 2000, p. 201].
I have brought up the matter of prayer because
prayer is the simplest and easiest form of meditation. People
think that meditation involves the whole drill of sitting down
calmly in the prescribed pose, closing the eyes, and slowly going
through an entire procedure. Yes, that is FORMAL meditation.
Formal meditation is very difficult, and requires not only years
of patient and intense practice, but conditioning one's entire
life-style to suit doing meditation. The Rishis of old did
precisely this, and a famous one named Patanjali has spelt out the
prescription in detail. As Swami has told students several times,
meditation is not easy in this day and age. Nor is it required
really, contrary to the belief of many. He asks: "What does
meditation really mean? It simply means thinking about the Lord."
Vivekananda put it crisply. He declared: "Meditation is the
constant remembrance of the Lord."
Now let me tie up prayer and 'meditation' into
a format that even a child would find easy to follow. Let us just
talk to Swami, as though He is directly before us. We can
certainly do this, say when we are alone, when we are travelling
in a plane, and so on. This way, Swami becomes a real Friend. Time
and again, Swami says, "You must regard God as your friend; this
is better that being His servant." Operationally, it is my
experience that it is safer to be play the role of a servant when
in the direct, physical presence of Swami! But when having a heart
to heart conversation along the lines indicated above, we can take
the liberty of being His Friend. In fact, many great devotees have
done precisely this.
Besides this we must also pray in the usual
manner to Swami. Our prayer must express gratitude for the
numerous things we receive, known and unknown. If we enjoy good
health it is not because we are controlling our diet or jogging
regularly etc. It is because of Swami's Grace. If we are
successful in business, it is because of Swami's Grace; so on it
goes, and we must not omit to express our gratitude for it. The
list of things for which we must be grateful is endless. Besides
expressing gratitude for the blessings and favours we have
personally received, we can and must pray for others. Swami likes
very much when we pray for OTHERS and do not ask anything for
ourselves. That is selflessness, and God loves to see that quality
In short, prayer can become a very pleasant
experience, and one that we can eagerly look forward to. Prayer
makes us think of God and this is something many office bearers in
the Sai Organisation tend to slip up on, pleading work load and
the like. Abstaining from prayer has no excuse; one can always
find time to talk to God. More than anything else, it leads to
internal cleansing. The longer we put off prayer, the more is the
'dirt' that accumulates within. In the semiconductor industry, the
foundry where they make silicon chips [like the Pentium chip, for
example] is kept unbelievably clean. They go to enormous effort to
constantly purify the air; otherwise, the yield of good chips
would go down drastically. In the same way, we too must find time
to commune with Swami as frequently as possible.
If we give this a serious try, we would find
life becoming very different for us. I say this on the basis of
personal experience. What a sea change it brings! Let me conclude
by recalling a beautiful and absolutely wonderful prayer due to St.
Francis. It goes like this:
Make me an instrument
of Your Peace!
Where there is hatred, let me sow Love;
Where there is injury, Pardon;
Where there is discord, Unity;
Where there is doubt, Faith;
Where there is error, Truth;
Where there is despair, Hope;
Where there is sadness, Joy;
Where there is darkness, Light.
O Divine Master!
Grant that I may not seek
To be consoled, as to console;
To be understood, as to understand;
To be loved, as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive,
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
It is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.